Canada Among 7 Countries Calling for Facebook to Break Encryption

The war on encryption and security has reared its ugly head. This as 7 countries, including Canada, call on Facebook to break its encryption.

It’s been a long running battle between big government and the Internet. Several countries, including Canada, have been calling on websites to break their encryption and endanger the security of its users. To what end? Essentially, they don’t want to have to deal with encryption when engaging with their mass surveillance of citizens around the world.

In order to make their calls palatable, the spy agencies use the veil of terrorism and child pornography to make their case. There’s little to no evidence to actually confirm this conspiracy theory, but that is the line that they are going by anyway. Obviously, encryption and security is a difficult subject to explain. So, spy agencies seem to think they have the perfect excuse to call for this.

To further their demands, many even go as far as to demand the impossible: give the spy agencies backdoor access while making their security secure for everyone else. Technically, this is simply impossible because if you work in a weakness to your security, that inherently weakens security for everyone. It’s a bit like building a fortress and building in a “secret tunnel” to get in and out. Shh, don’t tell anyone. You’ve probably seen enough movies or played enough games to know how that always ends. Unfortunately, this will affect everyone’s security and not just a select few.

Now, it seems that spy agencies from 7 countries, including Canada, are renewing their calls to force Facebook to break its encryption. From Forbes:

The governments of seven countries are calling on Facebook and other tech firms to do the technically impossible – to weaken encryption by giving law enforcement access to messages, whilst not reducing user safety.

The governments of the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Japan have issued the joint statement which pleads with Facebook specifically, as well as other tech firms, to drop “end-to-end encryption policies which erode the public’s safety online”.

The governments once again raise the issue of child abusers and terrorists using encrypted services such as WhatsApp to send messages without fear of content being intercepted.

“We owe it to all of our citizens, especially our children, to ensure their safety by continuing to unmask sexual predators and terrorists operating online,” the U.K.’s home secretary, Priti Patel, said in a statement.

This war on encryption has been going on for years. This front has been a longstanding battle that extends into decades even depending on which angle you want to look at it. This latest push has gone back as far as 2018 when Australia pushed for and passed its anti-encryption laws. That effort emboldened an international effort to take this push international. While it was used under the veil of stopping child abuse and terrorism, it was ultimately used to crack down on journalism in the country.

In 2018, the 5 eyes spy organizations, including Canadian, have demanded backdoor access. Those calls were renewed in August of 2019 as well. Those calls last year were re-doubled to specifically target Facebook – a moment when Germany entered the fray.

In the US, the push has been particularly strong. This is through the EARN IT legislation which has been debated all year this year. Republican’s specifically tabled a second bill that also undermines security. That bill has been dubbed by digital rights organizations as “worse than EARN IT“. While EARN IT was ultimately watered down at the last minute before a scheduled vote, digital rights organizations like the EFF still consider the legislation a threat to encryption.

What is particularly odd about all of this is how strangely mum Michael Geist has been in all of this. Typically, he’s on top of digital rights issues that concerns Canadians, but this story seems to have been largely absent on his site. We’ll keep an eye on his site to see if that changes of course.

One question about this that might be on the minds of a lot of people is, “Why now?” Why are these spy organizations choosing specifically now to renew their efforts. It’s possible that they see the current US elections as an opportunity to press their case. Joe Biden is leading in the polls after a catastrophic Trump Administration. So, it’s possible that we are seeing an administration change in the making. Republican’s, as noted above, have been pushing the anti-security agenda, so it’s not like Trump has exactly been a defender of personal security. Still, it’s possible Biden will eventually become convinced that security is a threat to national security and do the spy agencies bidding. Lobbying can influence policy making in the long term.

If anything, this latest push shows that the war on encryption is far from dead. It may have been somewhat dormant in recent months, but the war is still alive and well.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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